<%-- Page Title--%> Photography <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 158 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

June 11, 2004

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Rivers, Lives and More…

Mustafa Zaman

The urbanised parts aside, Bangladesh remains largely a hub of natural beauty. Lives in the rural parts are still cosily wrapped up in simplicity. Alok, a photographer with an eye for landscape with river as the central feature and also lives that centre on rivers, showcases his recent yields in a solo exhibition at Gallery Shilparag.

Alok picked up his first camera way back in 1985. It was a borrowed Nikon with which he, then, a student of first year at the Institute of Fine Arts in Dhaka, dabbled into the culture of capturing images. "It was in 1985, a time when colour photography and its processing was not as available as it is today. So, I started out with black and white," says Alok.

His first chance to see the world through the lens of his own camera came in 1986, when his maternal uncle bought him a Nikon-EM. In the beginning, he was attracted to the idea of capturing the lives of the day-labourers. But, soon, he took a liking to what later would become his pet subject, the scenic beauty of the river Kaliganga, the river that runs through Manikganj.

"Kaliganga infatuated me since my childhood. When I got a camera of my own, I developed the habit of making frequent visits to capture the river and lives that thrive on it," says Alok. As a boy he grew up in Manikganj, and it was from the first colour reel that he loaded his camera with back in 1986, that Alok became a photographer glued to Kaliganga's abiding ebb and flow, and its changing scenic beauty year round.

"I have seen the river change over the years. Now it is a narrow, winding strip of water during most part of the year, it wasn't so when we were little," observes Alok, whose latest crop of photographs, as usual, shows the river from a birds eye perspective. In fact the bridge that runs across the river provided Alok time and again with an advantage to capture scenes from the top as well as afar.

"Looking at scenic beauty from afar is a thing that I wish to continue," stresses Alok, whose oeuvre consists of compositions of the river and its banks seen from far off.

In the catalogue Naeem Hasan, a writer and an art aficionado, points out that Alok takes pleasure in "clicking for a wider angle." This marks him out among many other nature enthusiasts. With him the results are often a wide canvas-like back drop where boats, fishing nets and even humans get to play the part of art-elements in an ambitious formalist composition. Beauty is the most important ingredient of this twenty-plus photographer and he often dwells on its possibility from an abstract point of view.

He also gets closer to his subjects -- the people on the fringe -- to bring forth the glory of simple living and all that goes into its making. The fishermen, the boat-builders in action, their family lives in rural homesteads, these are new areas that the photographer has explored for the last two years. The outcome sometimes is of documentary value, and often something like an art piece strewn with distant, yet recognisable subjects to contemplate on. These newer forays illuminate lives from the fringe that go to enlighten us, and illuminate the dark patches in our urban psyche.

The relay of river images in this second solo of Alok, are punctuated by humans -- documented in an unassuming language -- true to their existence and realities. Yet, one can easily deduce that Alok has a pair of eyes that craves for natural setting where all things mingle together to strike a visual harmony. With images of river that embraces green patches upon its shallow bed, or the dry, sandy riverbeds, showing its natural marks and the signs of human transgressions, are his signature images that have the capacity to leave a lasting mark in the viewers' minds.

Unnayan Shamannay, a non government organisation, has helped organise this show titled Nature's Rhapsody. The show was inaugurated on June 3 and lasted till June 9, 2004.


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